Call for Essays Examining the Nonfiction of Social Justice

November 14, 2016 § 5 Comments

A note from Karen Babine, editor of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies:

zzstOn Wednesday morning, we, like many of you, had no idea how to walk into our classrooms, what to say to our students. The results of the election were paralyzing to many of us. Many of us are still paralyzed. It was a Facebook post from a friend that got me there: “Educators, get out of bed. We have work to do.” My Wednesday composition class’s plan to talk about Aristotle’s Three Appeals seemed beyond ridiculous. So, like many of you, I scrapped my lesson plan, but I was in class with my students at my urban community college in the north suburbs of Minneapolis. I’m still struggling to find words—in class this week, I couldn’t even finish my sentences and my students just looked at me and nodded. They didn’t have words either. In that space, I relied on the words of others to fill that void.

Writers: we have work to do.

This week, the Assay staff decided that while we would still like to have a focus on Best American Essays in our spring issue (to continue our celebration of BAE’s 30th anniversary), we would like to fill our pages with the nonfiction of social justice. We’re looking for full scholarly articles, we’re looking for informal analysis, we’re looking for pedagogy of all sorts, the incredible variety of forms that Assay likes best. We’re looking for the voices we need now, more than ever. Who are the writers of color we need to read (and teach), now more than ever? The LGBTQ writers we need, now more than ever? The environmental writers, as we struggle against the future incarnations of the EPA? Who are the other voices about to be marginalized even further? What are the particular texts, the individual essays, the full-length books? What lesson plans have you developed? Perhaps an explication of a nonfiction assignment? What did you read with your students this week when you tossed out your original plan?

Assay’s spring issue comes out in March, a few weeks after AWP in Washington, DC, which is a few weeks after Inauguration Day. In the face of feeling helpless and powerless, putting our words into the world to support each other is our best way of moving forward.

Please share this call widely with your colleagues and students.

Writers: We have work to do.

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§ 5 Responses to Call for Essays Examining the Nonfiction of Social Justice

  • I’m not one who writes on the level you are seeking, but I thought I’d suggest you take a look at Craig Greenfield ( or Shane Claiborne (

  • Ken Rosburg says:

    I find your approach to be quite interesting. It seems you assume a monolithic group think where your side suffered a disastrous loss which has paralyzed your ability to reason. I would challenge you to open your mind and learn there is another side who see the Trump presidency as possibly saving the United States of America and our Constitution from a President who, for the past eight years, failed to abide by his oath as written in the Constitution, “…to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States (Article II, section 1, last paragraph,) and from a successor who deemed herself to be above the law.

    The Supreme Court has overturned all unconstitutional actions which President Obama took and that reached the court. Unfortunately, the wheels of Supreme Court justice turn slowly. Fortunately, President Trump will be able to overturn many of the illegal actions by rescinding President Obama’s Executive Orders.

    The strength of the United States is our Constitution and the balance and separation of powers. Both sides of the political spectrum should want to preserve the political structure as devised by the genius of the founding fathers regardless of the electoral process. I have seen little desire by the Democrats to preserve the process while pursuing their political power.

    You wondered what you should talk about in your classes. I suggest you start by having your students read the Constitution followed by a scholarly discussion. You might even go so far as to invite a conservative to participate in your discussions.

  • Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Considering the rampant corruption of most of the world’s political systems, I thought today’s re-blog (from an American) would be productive of positive thinking (and, writing…).

  • I don’t go in much for the delicate snowflake outlook. We aren’t paralyzed at my school and my students stand to lose a lot in terms of Federal funds for college, and legislation to shorten mandatory sentences. We lost the election, and as a librarian in a prison we continued our book discussion of All American Boys, which looks hard at an episode of police brutality on a black teen whom committed no crime. We continued the hard discussion, and the hard work towards possible solutions which haven’t occurred during any presidency.

  • Mani says:

    There was always going to be more work to do, regardless of who won the election. That an ignorant thug & his billionaire buddies are now taking over government just helps us focus more intently on the many areas of What Needs To Be Done. But it all comes down to: Taking care of people, in all the ways that people need. Make particular intention from now on is “making fierce & fearless peace” — which is not necessarily gently, & in no way means being meek, silent or weak!

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